MONDAY, Nov. 15 (HealthDay News) -- A new blood thinner might be a viable alternative to warfarin (Coumadin), the standard for decades to treat patients with the dangerous heart rhythm disorder known as atrial fibrillation.
In research presented Monday at the American Heart Association's annual meeting in Chicago, researchers reported that rivaroxaban (Xarelto) proved to be just as good as warfarin, and possibly superior.
Rivaroxaban also reduced the risk of serious bleeding events, which is the most troubling side effect of warfarin. Dabigatran (Pradaxa), another newer-generation blood thinner, was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat atrial fibrillation last month.
This latest study was sponsored by Johnson & Johnson Pharmaceutical Research & Development and Bayer Healthcare, the makers of rivaroxaban.
Warfarin is the mainstay for the treatment of patients with atrial fibrillation, which affects some 2.2 million Americans. During atrial fibrillation, the heart's two small upper chambers -- called the atria -- quiver rather than beat methodically, raising the risk of blood clots and eventually a stroke.
The drug is effective in reducing the risk of stroke, but it has significant drawbacks, including the bleeding risk and difficulties with dosing and monitoring.
"In October of 2006, the FDA [U.S. Food and Drug Administration] issued a black-box warning for warfarin due to a growing appreciation of its hazards in routine clinical practice," said Dr. Elaine Hylek, who spoke at a Monday news conference on the findings, although she was not involved with the mammoth study. "The requirement for monitoring has relegated millions of people to no therapy or ineffective therapy because of lack of access to monitoring and an intense search for an alternative with more predictable dose responses."
Hylek is an associate professor of m
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